Lazer leads us back to the top eight

25 November 2018

After dropping out of the playoff places yesterday when Neftekhimik picked up a point at Metallurg, Red Star responded with victory over Sochi to reclaim eighth place. But the 3-0 scoreline did not tell the story of this game, which was defined by the brilliance of our goalie Alexander Lazushin.

Lazushin returned from injury to play in Friday’s 0-2 loss against Spartak – his solid show was one of the bright spots of a disappointing evening – but that was just the warm-up for today’s starring performance. Against Sochi, our goalie made 31 saves to deny the visitor a way back into the game and secure two much-needed points with his fourth shut-out of the campaign.

Head coach Jussi Tapola was in no doubt about the importance’s of the netminder’s contribution. “Sochi had many chances to score, but Lazushin was incredible,” he said. “As a result, we won 3-0. Maybe the scoreline wasn’t entirely fair but when you play with all your heart, anything can happen.”

It wasn’t all about Lazushin: this was a solid team performance on defense from start to finish. The penalty kill was strong – and it needed to be after the team picked up seven minors in the course of the game. The guys were quick to protect their goalie and get bodies in the way of shots, particularly in the third period when Sochi laid siege to our net in a bid to battle back into contention.

And, of course, the offense that misfired against Spartak found its range once again. The return of Finnish forward Veli-Matti Savinainen from injury was a boost for the team, and played 17:50 on a line with Justin Fontaine and Tomas Mertl. That line didn’t get among the goals today, but others stepped up. After riding out the early Sochi pressure, and killing two penalties, Red Star went ahead in the 11th minute through Cory Kane. He picked up a Brandon Yip feed between the hash marks and caught a break as his shot looped up off the stick of Yury Alexandrov and landed behind visiting goalie Dmitry Shikin.

Goal number two came in the second period as the home power play strutted its stuff. Fontaine, a player coming into some scoring form as he settles into his role in the team, fed the puck back to Ville Lajunen in the deep slot; the Finn fired home his fifth goal of the season. To wrap it up, Yip potted an empty netter as Red Star demonstrated just how to neutralize an extra attacker. Sochi, pinned behind its own net, struggled to clear the puck; Yip made the interception in the right-hand channel and instantly shot into the unguarded target.

There were other chances: Wojtek Wolski rattled the post in the first period, Patrik Lundh was denied by a fine save after a solo raid in the second. It all added up to a wholly satisfying afternoon.

Our home stand continues next week with back-to-back games against Eastern Conference rival Sibir. The action continues in Shanghai on Tuesday and Wednesday as Red Star looks to tighten its grip on a place in the playoffs.

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